Shaquille O’Neal sets the record straight on his departure from the Lakers
Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant made up one of the greatest superstar duos in basketball history, and together they led the Los Angeles Lakers to three straight NBA championships from 2000 to 2002.
Although they played eight seasons together and accomplished things very few duos, let alone entire organizations, have ever accomplished, many still think of their Lakers tenure in terms of what they didn’t accomplish, as they feel the duo would’ve won several more titles had it remained together.
Many to this day still blame Bryant for O’Neal’s departure from L.A. in 2004, even though it was O’Neal himself who asked to be traded that summer.
In a recent interview, the legendary center said he didn’t leave because of his so-called feud with Bryant, but for financial reasons (h/t The Sports Rush).
“The reason I got traded, it wasn’t about me and Kobe beef. (It was) because they (the Lakers) wanted me to take less money. I’m not doing that!
I got money, I had money. I just should’ve been like ‘alright, I raise you enough. It’s your team now. I know what I’m going to do. I’m still going to do my 28 (points), and 10 (rebounds)’. But I was like ‘Nah, I want $150 (million).’”
Throughout the 2003-04 campaign, his last with the Lakers, O’Neal was asking for a massive contract extension. However, he suffered a major decline in his production that year, as his body was starting to break down and he no longer possessed his once-feared explosion.
Dr. Jerry Buss, the then-owner of the Lakers, felt O’Neal’s declining numbers could no longer justify his price tag, and the Hall of Famer was traded to the Miami Heat.
Dr. Buss decided to rebuild around Bryant, which was considered a very controversial move at the time, but it was the right move, as L.A. won two more world titles in 2009 and 2010 with the Black Mamba still in his prime.
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